Thoughts on Eastern Europe

An incredible trip on multiple levels. Until thirty years this area of the world lived under the heavy hand of the Soviet Union. Each city is still figuring out its bearings. There is different feeling of awakening in each place.

Few things. Martinis can only be had in Prague. Not sure why. James Bond would be bummed. Each hotel hands you a map and information of the of the city when you check in. I always find that comical when we have Google maps. The air flow in buildings is almost non-existent. The summers must be brutal. Just like it was 106 in Paris this summer, these cities are not prepared for that. Even in the magnificent National Gallery in Prague, they have to have artists sign statements understanding that there is no temperature control in the buildings so their work might be damaged. Who is going to pay for a good HVAC system is the question. when much is still state run.

Coffee is abundant. Art galleries don’t seem to be open even when their hours reflect that they are supposed to be open. There is definitely a bourgeoning art scene happening in Prague and Warsaw similar to Berlin 15 years ago. We are definitely coming back to see more and figure out that piece of Warsaw.

Krakow is beautiful, old and historically something to see. A historical movie set. Warsaw has more than meets the eye. Both of these cities have a thin layer of Russia hanging over it from the people to the architecture (certainly the architecture in Warsaw). Budapest is old with rambling streets and large castles. The baths can not be beat. New restaurants that are working on contemporary food just like Berlin was 15 years ago. They are all moving forward although the right wing party who is still frustrated with change hangs in the balance politically. Good to see Poland giving them very little say in their last election. New blood and hopefully the youth is essential to both countries in the political spectrum.

Prague felt the most lively. A city with a bounce in its step. Absolutely beautiful and people who want to make it as important as other European cities is inspiring. The place really hums like Paris or London.

We had one conversation about politics which isn’t surprising but certainly disturbing. He said, these countries look to the US as the guiding light. The beacon of freedom that inspires them with hope that their countries too can move past corruption or stagnant growth. Then along comes Trump who is the most corrupt of all who is in bed with thugs around the globe and it is disheartening that the US too is falling prey to unlawful politicians like their own countries. Remember that everyone in each of these countries speak English and they did not 30 years ago. It is a flat world and the Internet makes it flatter. They are not immune to what is going on here.

As an optimist I believe we will get past this but for our Allies across the globe who have moved into a new dimension after the fall of the Berlin Wall makes it disheartening and embarrassing to be an American in these countries right now. We felt obliged to apologize.

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    Unless and until something dramatic happens to the internals of US or Russia these countries will always be the piggy in the middle and suffer accordingly. The EU insisting on pushing ever further east and Russia rightly responds by disrupting that advance. There was a brief opportunity after 1991 to break this impasse, but the West blew it.I remember the old man working at the booking office at the railway station in Budapest. He said everyone wanted to get out of Hungary. His daughter did. She became a dentist in America. He was happy about that.I must visit Prague.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Piggy in the middle. Yep.

    2. Jim K

      “The West blew it” – well said!

      1. Gotham Gal

        It won’t be the last time

    3. JLM

      .The European Union is the second largest economy in the world at $19T.The Russian economy is smaller than Italy at $1.5T.The EU has been subcontracting their defense to the USA since WWII. It is high time that the EU steps up and defends itself.The Russian Army, a conscript army, is grossly overrated.The EU needs to cowboy up.The collective army of the EU matches up well with Russia.JLMwww.themusingsoftheigredcar…

  2. awaldstein

    And a really interesting and growing artisanal wine world.New generation of people embracing traditional wine making from Georgia to wherever.Markets to support them there and throughout Europe.And–with the changing climate higher, north facing terrain, of which there is much in many of these places become more possible.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Much more coming for sure

  3. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I remember in the mid ’90’s everyone was moving to Prague. It was the new Paris. But I was still discovering NYC :)I work with people from all over the world every day. It never fails to amaze me how much they all know about U.S. politics—I’m talking names, events, details. They know who Mitch McConnell and Lyndsey Graham are. They’ve read the Mueller Report. They know who’s in The Squad.Everyone’s rooting for us, and everyone has experience with what we’re going through (for the first time). There’s a lot of empathy and a little bit of irony coming from everyone I talk to around the world.Really enjoyed this GG series on your trip!

  4. Shelly Lipton

    When we were in Budapest several years ago, the people seemed a bit austere which translated to the food and the general experience. Whereas, I agree how Prague felt more upbeat yet still still lacking in cuisine. Wondering how far they’ve really progressed based on your observations. Did much of it feel new?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Yes but not as much as Prague does

  5. LE

    There is no doubt that Trump is doing damage to our image around the world. But I am not sure that that matters as much (in this day and age) as people might think it does. People will still want to come here, do business and live here. There are vastly more people who would like to do that than we could ever accommodate. Of all types. And other countries will still accept our aid and our technology and our medical treatments. And when Trump is out of office the next President will almost certainly not only restore trust but say ‘all better now…sorry.. that was an aberration’.Honestly I do not care nor am I impacted in any way (and if I am someone can reply and point it out to me) by what people think of our President. And if someone travels to foreign countries and experiences the result of the bad behavior that is not most Americans by any stretch.I am sure that people say plenty things about me, about you, and about Fred that we don’t know and has no impact on any of us. You think your friends don’t talk about you? They do.Once again I wish it wasn’t happening it’s a complete mess. But in all honesty I think it matters way less and it’s not our country’s job to instill security in other parts of the world (mentally or physically). Here? Yes for sure. That is the part that I am worried about.

  6. Paul Williams

    “We had one conversation about politics which isn’t surprising but certainly disturbing. He said, these countries look to the US as the guiding light.You do realise that most of these former soviet controlled eastern block countries have been full members of the EU since 2004…..right ?…And that the EU is the largest trading block on the planet…….. so why would they be looking to the US as a guiding light…….As an Eu citizen I find that attitude rather arrogant….. especially as the US ceased to be the land of the free and “endless opportunity for all” long before Trump got his fat ass in the big seat.

    1. Gotham Gal

      He was from Poland.

  7. William Mougayar

    Definitely, we thought of Prague as a cross between Berlin and Vienna. The energy, art and history in that city are palpable. And yes to great coffee in Prague.

  8. jason wright

    The US has been in bed with thugs for decades. Chomsky has been writing about it forever. US foreign policy conveniently mirrors the interests of Wall Street investment banks and their overseas investments. Follow the money. Eastern Europeans are being a little bit naive about the realities of the world they were isolated from for so long.